By Steve Hansen
QCS Managing Editor
Last week was the time of graduations — a time of nostalgia, optimism and encouragement, and for comparing the game of life to football.
I’m not counting on addressing a graduating class now or ever, but today, I wouldn’t be talking about joy and optimism as I look at the state of our economy and the job market.
I would quote Aragon’s first words to Frodo in “Lord of the Rings:” “Are you frightened? Not nearly frightened enough!”
While the rest of the world quietly consumes more of our lunch, we send unprepared graduates to college and out into the world in droves. They continue to choose careers that crowd the market with little-needed skills, while employers go begging for the talent they need.
According to the Princeton Review, the most popular majors for American college students are business administration, psychology, nursing, education, English language and literature, economics, communications studies, political science and government, and computer and information sciences.
Now, here’s the list of majors that deliver today’s most lucrative opportunities, according to U.S. News and World Report: biomedical engineering, biometrics, forensic science, computer game design, cybersecurity, data science, business analytics, petroleum engineering, public health, robotics and sustainability.
The big difference between these lists boils down to STEM. That’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. STEM is where the future lies, even in computer games, but only 44 percent of U.S. high school graduates are ready for college-level math and only 36 percent are ready for college-level science.
That should be frightening, I would tell my grads. The fields you are more likely to choose just don’t produce the lucrative jobs you may think you have a right to.
So, become afraid, I would tell my graduates. That’s step one.
The second step: Wake up and accept hard learning. My audience would now be annoyed.
We have let ourselves accept easy learning as an entitlement, I would say. We encourage you to try hard in sports but let you say that math and science are “too hard,” because they require practice, overcoming confusion and long, deep thinking—the real tough stuff—to master. Your odds of making it in science, however, are still far better than your odds of making it to the NFL.
Hard learning will make you competitive, I would tell the grads, even if it keeps you up a little later not having fun and being popular. Hard learning makes you realize that your capacity is greater than you thought it could be.
When you accept hard learning, you can start thinking of the future America was supposed to enjoy back when we embraced globalization, because we were going to be its innovators and managers. We ended up being neither, because we don’t respect education like Finland, South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore. These are the top five nations in the world for education right now. We rank 14th. Out of 40, according to a study by Pearson, an educational company. The good news, according to Pearson: We’re getting better.
So, I would tell the grads: First, embrace hard learning, because that’s where the future lies. Then we can talk about bright futures, optimism, and how life can sometimes make football seem like just a game.
I would never be invited back.
Steve Hansen is the managing editor at the Quay County Sun. He can be reached at shansen@